Mooted mart funding lauded…but managers stress need to avoid online-only sales in 2021

Mart representative group Mart Managers of Ireland (MMI) has welcomed the proposed funding that is expected to be allocated for marts to assist in facilitating online sales.

In a statement on the matter, the group welcomed the announcement made by the office of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, stating:

“Since March, Mart Managers of Ireland have been fighting hard for this allocation. Government support through Local Enterprise Ireland and such had been rolled out to other businesses for online trading platforms; however, marts had been unable to attain such grants.

We are thankful that this has been rectified. Marts are and will remain an essential service to the farming sector. With Brexit very close on the horizon, and the possibility of another Level 5 lockdown in January or February, marts will be even more important to the farming community.

The organisation outlined that it anticipates a busy spring period, noting that a lot of farmers have “chosen to hang onto cattle”.

It stressed: “We need to be able to maximise our customer base to its full potential in order to keep trade at an acceptable level for all livestock.”

“We have been very fortunate to have the use of online trading facilities over the past number of months.

While prices have been good for both cattle and sheep, and a lot of farmers adapted well to using such a facility, we know that we have lost a percentage of our customer base.

Every customer will be needed in the spring of 2021. Farmers cannot afford to have marts go into another Level 5 situation with online-only sales.

MMI also outlined its belief that the government is “not fully aware of the problems” that marts have with online-only sales, stressing the problem of broadband issues for both marts and farmers trying to buy cattle in rural Ireland.

“Every bid lost is a potential loss to the farmer selling. We need to be mindful that these broadband issues are not going to be fixed in the short term,” it added.

MMI also flagged other issues with online-only sales, stating: “We cannot rubber stamp it as being the best and most efficient way to sell livestock.

“We should have learned lessons over the past number of months and we can work towards making our marts more efficient which includes the online system – but one which cannot work alone.

While we are very thankful to have received this much needed support from the department, we also need them to help ensure that the sales for the spring of 2021 will not revert back to online only sales.

“Government guidelines must be changed to facilitate more discussions on Level 5 restrictions for mart trading in a safe manner,” the representative association concluded, calling on support from the Irish farm organisations in on this issue in the coming weeks.